Grub St. follows up on the Kimball kerfuffle with
It was rather brilliant of Cook’s Illustrated publisher Christopher Kimball to knock the food blogosphere yesterday — after all, a sure way to get attention for your print magazine is to call out bloggers so they can give it attention on the web.
Brillliant, I guess, though I'd quibble and argue that the real brilliance lies in convincing the NYT to give you free real estate to whip up a souffle of self-promotion and a Dole-level understanding of the Internet.
And Kimball holds his nose, and wades into that darn internet to expand/clarify/backpedal from the NYT op-ed that attracted so much derision. In his response we learn that Chris is a) busy, b) misses Walter Cronkite, and finally:
In terms of recipes, no, I do not believe in a Wiki website, with a community opining on recipes as a means of creating a valuable database. Making a recipe 75 times in a test kitchen under controlled circumstances (yes, this is deeply self-serving) is vastly better than the voices of millions under less the ideal circumstances, with kitchens with a host of different problems/equipment/etc. Go ahead and make that broccoli casserole off your Google search and see how you like it! In cooking, as in all things, there is a right way and a wrong way. Very little in life is truly relative.
Kimball can't stay away from that broccoli casserole. What's more interesting, however, is Kimball's focus on a pre-internet episteme:
I also have zero interest in reading the public’s opinion regarding Iran, global warming, or the economy., For that, I will stick to the New York Times and a handful of folks who have spent a lifetime investigating these issues.
In my day job, I am tussling with defining "social media," as part of a larger interest in the mythology of the public sphere. What's striking here, and in Kimball's movietrailerish "What scares me the most, however, is that in a world without editors — just the unfiltered voices of millions — it can be harder to find insightful commentary and get at the truth" is just where these ideas are coming from.
I will drop some n+1 type bombs, and suggest that this is epistemically retrograde -- not just in a 1999 vs. 2009 way, but in a 1789 vs. 2009 way. If we take Habermas seriously, (just for a moment), Kimball is suggesting a pre-public sphere moment, where fact exists by decree of the monarch, or in this case the NY Times, for global warming, or Chris Kimball, for broccoli casserole. Indeed, and skip the rest of this graf if you are not a giant nerd, it could even be a 1609 vs. 2009 epistemic backslide, for Kimball denigrates the authority of experience that does not emanate from America's Test Kitchen.
The problem with Kimball, and what makes him think in this way, is the fundamental joylessness that permeates every corner of his enterprise. I use and like some of his recipes, but they generally emanate from a presumption that eating is a burden, and food is nasty, and only relentless experimentation can preven you from failing as a cooking by revealing the least intolerable way to prepare a given dish. If you doubt my argument, conduct the thought experiment of imagining the America's Test Kitchen Kama Sutra.
Precision is great, but when, say, Judy Rogers fusses at you, it's with the idea that the results will be transcendent, not with the idea that you will fail if you do not do it her way. In real life, sometimes cooks are precise, sometimes not, and the joy of the meal is in the making and sharing, not the perfection of it. Pleasure and the joy of experimentation vs. fear and relying on a script, rather than print vs. pixels is what what makes it difficult for Christopher Kimball to understand the way food writing works in 2009.
Kudos, as always to Penny Pascal for the Peerless Photoshopping.